In some of my recent posts I've been looking at the question of a duality in our spiritual nature. The main reason for my interest in this recondite topic is that there are, broadly speaking, two kinds of scenarios spun about life after death. In one scenario, the individual with all his faculties intact (and even enhanced) relocates to a spiritual world and proceeds to learn and evolve in this new environment. In the other scenario, the person sheds his ego like a worn-out coat, remembers that he has lived many lives and that all the lives were essentially roles he played, and proceeds to plan a new incarnation.
Reconciling these two storylines is not easy. In fact, it may be impossible, unless we concede that there are two parts to each of us, a soul and a spirit, and that while the soul may live in Summerland, the spirit is busy reincarnating on Earth.
But how can this be? What sense does it make to talk about a person or a self, if it can be split apart, or if if it was never actually united in the first place?
The best answer I've found to this question is in an essay by Michael Tymn called "The Enigma of Reincarnation." It's a short, well-written piece, so I'd suggest that anyone interested in this subject simply read the whole thing.
What stands out for me is a certain uniformity of opinion that emerges from various "channeled" sources over a long period of time. The viewpoint that takes shape is simple enough to grasp in principle, but probably impossible to understand in detail, because it would require us to think outside the limitations of our own (earthbound) minds.
Essentially, the idea is that the individual self (call it the soul) is part of a larger group soul (call it the spirit). The spirit is akin to the higher self, the spirit guide, the guardian angel, etc. The soul, on the other hand, is basically the personality-centered ego-mind we know as "me" in ordinary life. Various souls, each a unique individual, contribute to the totality of the group soul or spirit.
The channeled entity Silver Birch compared the whole system to a radiant diamond. The diamond as a whole is the group soul; the facets of the diamond are the individual souls. He also compared it to an iceberg, with the tip of the iceberg representing the individual soul and the greater submerged mass representing the group soul.
Tymn also quotes from the purported communication of a long-dead Glastonbury monk, who was asked why he remained connected to the ruins of the abbey he had loved in life, instead of venturing into the higher planes of the spirit world. Via automatic writing the monk replied, “Why cling I to that which is not? It is I, and it is not I, butt parte of me which dwelleth in the past is bound to that which my carnal soul loved and called home these many years. Yet, I, Johannes, amm of many partes, and ye better parte doeth other things – Laus, Laus Deo – only that part which remembreth clingeth like memory to what it seeth yet.”
It appears to me that if the two lines of evidence for the afterlife are both valid -- that is, if the Summerland scenario and the reincarnation scenario are both true -- then we have to concede that old Johannes was right. We are indeed "of many parts." We do possess uniqueness and personhood, but we are also part of a larger whole that has its own purpose and intentions. We are both bounded and unbounded; we are defined and limited by our individuality, yet we partake of something larger. And we cannot really grasp this paradox with minds conditioned by ordinary earthly reality. We can state it in words, but we can't make complete sense of it, because it is too far removed from our bodily, physical experiences.
Some understanding of our multi-part spiritual nature seems to have found its way into many religious traditions -- even into Christianity, which distinguishes between soul and spirit in its founding texts (though not many modern Christians would acknowledge this distinction). We seem to simultaneously identify with the small self of the ego and personality, and with the big self of the witness or oversoul or "cosmic consciousness." I, for one, can't see how the apparently indivisible thing I call "my self" can actually be two very different things at the same time. But I gather that such is the case.
And if so, then it may help to explain how these two scenarios can coexist. The soul speaks through mediums and remembers its earthly life; it may or may not have any glimmer of the bigger picture, which includes reincarnation, and thus mediumistic communications on this subject may be confused and conflicting. The spirit (oversoul, group soul) speaks through hypnotic regression sessions, identifying with each earthly life as it is lived, but shedding that identification between lives. Each one -- spirit and soul -- is truly "me," but in a different respect.
As a very loose and perhaps not very helpful analogy, we might think of a photon, which can be either a wave or a particle -- two very different modes of expression, yet neither is any less real. The oversoul might be likened to the wave, which is a probability distribution encompassing all possible locations of the photon, while the soul might be compared to the particle, a unique point in space and time. Without the particle, the photon would remain only a potential; without the wave, the photon would be incapable of movement and change.
Or we might think of the duality of yin and yang -- two complementary principles that make up a single whole, yet remain distingiushable.
But all these comparisons ultimately fail. As Michael Tymn reports: "Trying to explain reincarnation to humans, Silver Birch added, is like trying to explain the color of the sky to someone who has been blind from birth." And as he also tells us:
When Frederick Bligh Bond asked another of the Glastonbury spirits, a more fluent speaking one, about reincarnation, the spirit replied: “You understand not reincarnation, nor can we explain. What in you reincarnates, do you think? How can you find words? Blind gropers after immutable facts, which are not of your sphere of experience.”